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A Hiking Getaway

If Tokyo's concrete jungle is getting you down and a stroll through Tokyo's parks and gardens just won't cut it, head west to Mount Takao, a 600-m. (1,969-ft.) wooded hill popular for its seven hiking trails. In addition to scenic lookouts, there's also Takaosan Yakuoin Yuuki-ji Temple, founded in 744 in honor of Yakushi Nyorai, a Buddha believed to cure illness. Today it's a popular destination for mountain worshippers.

To reach Mount Takao, take the Keio Line's semi-express from Shinjuku Station almost an hour to Takaosan-guchi, the last stop (train fare: ¥370). From there, you can take either a cable car or a chairlift (my favorite) halfway to the top (fare for either: ¥470, or ¥900 round-trip). Alternatively, you can hike to the top in about 1 1/2 hours. If you don't want to purchase individual tickets, there's a combination ticket you can buy at the Keio Line's ticket counter in Shinjuku Station that covers round-trip travel on both the train and cable car or chairlift for ¥1,320 on weekdays or ¥1,480 on weekends. For more information on Mount Takao, see www.takaotozan.co.jp/takaotozan_eng1/index.htm.

For dining, there's Beer Mount (tel. 042/665-9943) at the top of the chairlift, a beer garden open July through September from 4 to 9:30pm (from 2:30pm weekends and holidays). It offers outstanding views of Tokyo in the distance and all-you-can-eat-and-drink buffets for ¥3,300 for men and ¥3,000 for women. Better in my opinion, however, is either Ukai Toriyama (tel. 042/661-0739) or Ukai Chikutei (tel. 042/661-8419), both accessible from Takaosan-guchi Station via free shuttle buses that depart every 20 minutes. Toriyama, opened in 1964, specializes in Japanese-style chargrilled chicken, with set meals ranging from ¥4,730 to ¥8,930, while Chikutei offers beautifully prepared set meals starting at ¥4,200 for lunch and ¥7,140 for dinner. Both boast beautiful settings, with dining in individual thatched huts and traditional houses picturesquely situated in natural surroundings complete with streams and ponds. Dining at either will be an experience you won't soon forget. Both restaurants are open daily from 11 or 11:30am to 8 or 9:30pm, depending on the day of the week. Reservations are required.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.